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The path to Sustainability for IT.ie

The Sustainability Journey of a Small Irish Business

There are many ways to interpret sustainability with the word itself being described as impossibly ambiguous by Kent Porter in his 2015 book “Sustainability”. The best definition or explanation for sustainability, I believe comes from the United Nations Brundtland Commission, who in 1987, described sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. 

 

In fact, there are 17 Sustainable Development Goals that layout a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. No single goal is necessarily more important than any other, however, our dependence of fossil fuels and their impact on global warming is having the most immediate and far-reaching impact.  

 

I asked Hans Zomer, CEO of The Global Action Plan Ireland for his thoughts on SME’s and how they can have an impact on sustainability?

 

“SMEs are not only the backbone of Ireland’s economy, they are also vital if we are to make the transition to a more sustainable way of living. We are seeing more and more that SMEs in Ireland are realising that sustainability is not only a good aspiration, but that there are tangible benefits to the company. By aiming to reduce the company’s impact on the environment and the climate, many SMEs are embracing the principles of the circular economy, reducing waste and energy use, and building greater resilience in their business processes. And companies are discovering that they benefit, too, in terms of greater employee engagement and positive brand awareness. We are seeing that employees are demanding climate action from their companies, and that investors expect higher standards, too. As the urgency and scale of the climate and biodiversity crises are becoming clearer for everyone, the pressure on all companies to take meaningful action will increase” said Hans.

 

Our Journey to Reduce our Carbon Footprint

Our own sustainability journey only really started in 2018 during a phase of growth when we found that we had outgrown our existing premises. The larger 6000Sq Ft. premises right next door became available, and we successfully acquired it.  

 

“We were acutely aware of the negative impact global warming was having on the planet and were excited to adapt and contribute by creating a sustainable agenda at the very core of our business. However, there were limits as to what we could achieve in a rented premises. We had already taken a responsible approach to recycling and made steps to eliminate the use of single-use plastics. These were quite small steps, but a larger opportunity developed as soon as we moved into Unit 35 Finglas Business Centre. We decided, early on, that all future business decisions would be ‘green-first’ ” said Eamon Gallagher, Founder and Director of IT.ie.

 

The First Steps 

Our first real step was when we set a goal of converting our existing diesel fleet to fully electric by 2025. This started in 2020 with the purchase of our first fully electric vehicle (EV). Since then, we have added an additional six EVs accounting for 60% of the fleet and are well on course to reach our 2025 target. Given that we have clients across the country, there were initial concerns that the EV range might not be sufficient for runs outside of Dublin, however, we haven’t encountered any issues responding to any client, on-site issues and with newer EVs promising longer ranges on a single charge, we expect this to eliminate or at least reduce the hesitancy of businesses converting their fleets to fully electric.   

Our first real step was when we set a goal of converting our existing diesel fleet to fully electric by 2025. This started in 2020 with the purchase of our first fully electric vehicle (EV). Since then, we have added an additional six EVs accounting for 60% of the fleet and are well on course to reach our 2025 target. Given that we have clients across the country, there were initial concerns that the EV range might not be sufficient for runs outside of Dublin, however, we haven’t encountered any issues responding to any client, on-site issues and with newer EVs promising longer ranges on a single charge, we expect this to eliminate or at least reduce the hesitancy of businesses converting their fleets to fully electric. 

Hyundai Ionic EV
sustainability

Having an electric fleet was an important first step but we also wanted to go further and provide sustainable energy to power the fleet and in 2021 we began investigating the feasibility and cost of installing solar panels to provide electricity for both the fleet and the premises. We engaged with several companies before selecting EcoVolt as our partner on the project. 

In Late Feb 22, EcoVolt came onsite for the installation of the 40 x 450W Q. Cell panels and a large capacity battery to minimise energy waste. The installation was carried out over two days with zero impact on business operations. We estimate that the cost of the project will be fully recouped in a little over 4 years from the savings to our energy bills and our Co2 yearly offset is expected to be 8310 Kg. The current configuration, as it is modular, can also be further upgraded with additional panels and battery units. Over the summer months, we expect to see a significant saving in terms of our energy spend and carbon emissions. You will notice by the images below, captured on days with fair to good sunshine, that we are drawing very little energy from the grid. Even while charging EV’s and on days when we are producing more energy than we are consuming, energy is returned to the national grid.

Solar Energy Saving

The way I see it there are three primary reasons why a business should consider renewable energy.

 

  1. Social Responsibility

Simply put, it’s the right thing to do. You will be playing an important role in helping to reduce carbon emissions and the negative effects of global warming. 

 

  1. Cost Savings

There is of course an initial investment, but you will recoup this in a few short years after which the savings will be significant, especially in the summer months.

 

  1. Expectations of Stakeholders

The modern consumer is socially conscious about their impact on the environment and in future may decide to only engage with businesses that have taken positive steps on how they impact the environment. The same can be said of B2B partnerships where one business that has sustainable initiatives and business processes may decide to only engage with other sustainable businesses. And what about your employees? A sustainable business is likely to be seen as a more attractive employment prospect for a socially conscious candidate.

 

Science and Technology fueled the industrial revolutions that resulted in seismic shifts in the way we live and work in just a few short centuries. However, the cost has also been significant with global warming directly correlated to the second and third industrial revolutions. Science and Technology are also responsible for the improvements to our quality of life and it’s through science and technology that we will hopefully turn back the clock on global warming, but this can only happen if every business and every person plays a part. We certainly have more to do and as a technology company will continue to investigate, and where feasible, implement technology that helps us to play our part in significantly reducing our carbon footprint.      

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